Japan Emerges as America's Largest Missile Defense Partner

Washington – As the United States pursues a layered defense against ballistic missiles attacks, Japan has emerged as its most significant international partner, says Air Force Lieutenant General Henry “Trey” Obering, director of the Missile Defense Agency.

In testimony before a House Armed Services subcommittee hearing March 9, Obering said the first successful flight test of an interceptor missile using a nose cone developed by Japan occurred on March 8 off the coast of Hawaii.

Obering told subcommittee members that the United States has been working with Japan on missile defense research since 1999.  He said the Japanese government has agreed to evaluate the best location for an X-band radar to help defend both nations from a possible ballistic missile attack. X-band radar, so named because it operates at a frequency of 10 gigahertz, provides surveillance, acquisition, tracking and kill assessment for missile defense systems.

Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Policy Peter Flory, who testified with Obering, said with its commitment to spend around $1 billion, Japan has become the United States’ largest international partner in missile defense.  “The United States and Japan have agreed to work together to develop a more capable sea-based interceptor” that would improve the defense of both nations, he said.


Flory also said the United States is negotiating a Defense Technical Cooperation Agreement with Russia to promote missile defense cooperation on government and industrial levels and that U.S. officials and NATO are looking for additional avenues of bilateral cooperation.

Flory said the United States is looking at the possibility of putting long-range ground-based missile interceptors in Europe, just as it has in Alaska and California.  “Fielding such a capability would improve the defense of the United States against long-range missiles,” he said, “especially those launched from the Middle East.”  It would extend protection to America’s European allies “protecting their populations from attack and reducing the risk of coercion or blackmail,” Flory said.

The United States is pursuing missile defense initiatives with a number of countries.  Obering said the nature of the global threat from ballistic missiles “requires that we work closely with our allies and friends.”

The United Kingdom is working with the United States to upgrade an early warning radar at the Fylingdales U.K. military base for a ballistic missile defense mission.  It is designed to provide sensor coverage against Middle Eastern threats, according to Obering’s testimony.

Denmark has agreed to allow an early warning radar at Thule, Greenland, to be upgraded.  The radar also could help track the launch of hostile missiles from the Middle East.

Israel continues to work with the United States on improving the Arrow ballistic missile.  Israel conducted a successful launch and intercept of a maneuvering target in December 2005.  Obering said the two nations are co-producing the missile to help speed up Israel’s ability to meet its defense requirements and to “maintain the U.S. industrial work share.” (See related article.)

Following the conclusion of the 2004 Australia-U.S. Framework Memorandum of Understanding on missile defense, Canberra has expressed interest in working on a number of projects, according to Flory.

Germany and Italy are partnered with the United States on the Medium Extended Range Air Defense (MEADS) system that would provide an improved ground-based air and missile defense capability.

For more information on U.S policy, see Arms Control and Non-Proliferation.